Charting life's circuitous path

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Brilliant Sky

6 runs, 23.60 total miles, 1 soggy month
and a playlist scattered with soul sapping songs
(But I am a Firework.)
blinding sun, large clouds, b.r.e.e.z.e
and heavy, clawing, clinging humidity.
(But I am here.)
lightness, steady stride, pounding away
and a sudden sharp stitch in the side
(But fist pumps of triumph and brilliant smiles to the sky.)
Maybe with no 26.2, or 13.1 or even 10k
Maybe with wadded tissues, sweat, and flyaway hair.

But each step, each inhalation, each breath
I am able to run

And that makes me STRONG.

(Image from Pinterest.)



It’s the story of a girl

Stories have to start somewhere, but what we call the beginning isn’t always accurate.cinderella

Cinderella may be the story of a young woman neglected by family, saved by a fairy godmother, and ultimately running off with her prince, but even she had to get to the starting line.

(And who’s to say that it’s the story she would have told.)

Nine years ago, my tax status changed from filing single to filing jointly married.  Our belongings meshed together in a heap of corrugated boxes and bubble wrap.  Names were changed and not because we had to protect the innocent.

Many consider their wedding day as the “start” of a new life.  For us, there’s no denying that the wedding was a big event, but it was located somewhere in chapter 3.

In 2001, the hubby and I were a solid 3000 miles away, and the only things keeping us apart were tricky time zones, sketchy modems, and family wanting to use the phone (I mean, is that really important?).  Many bleary eyed college mornings were spent trying to jolt life back into an all-nighter body, not because of a party but long internet chat sessions.

 bookWe were young (hence being able to stay up all night), naïve (not worrying at all about the whole immigration twilight zone we would soon discover) and completely devoted (our phone bills attested to that – yikes!).

Loving my hubby didn’t take any effort at all.  We shared the same interest after all (you pretty much know what kind of person they are if they show up in a Dr Who chat room), and he was just too cute (words are definitely more expressive than most people think).

Our pre-married life consisted of endless IM spiels, chat room sessions and emails.  Being the neurotic type, I kept every scrap of conversation.  I wanted to preserve all of the fun and late night drivel even if I wouldn’t be able to remember the obscure references later.  There are times when you want to preserve a moment so you take a picture.  Having no person to take a picture of, I took “snapshots” of our pictorial conversations.book2

For our ninth anniversary, we’ll be kicking back with a slice of homemade Black Forest cake (hubby’s been wanting one for ages and I’ve had this secretly in the works for just as long), and flipping through a little book I put together using Blurb.

I wanted to give him a physical copy of the more ephemeral part of our beginning.  I couldn’t possibly bind all of the conversations I’ve saved (converting them alone would take me much longer than the four hour window I had when the hubby wasn’t home), so I picked out a selection of emails and IM conversations that meant a lot to me and showed the progression of our relationship.  I sprinkled in pictures that demonstrated our quirky, lovable and fun partnership.  The Blurb program was easy enough to use, but I wasn’t sure what the physical copy would look like – would all of our low-res pics come out horribly distorted?  Would the conversations even read right in print form?  I had bundled everything into a semblance of a book, but it was all still digital.

A week later, I held in my hands a slim white book filled with us.  It isn’t a masterpiece, but the smile he gave me and the hour we sat on the couch going over each page meant that it achieved what I had hoped.

Our story may have taken us by surprise when we finally grasped the plot, but from the very beginning it was a story that promised a whole lot of smiles.  And delivered.  😀

It’s the story of a girl who fell in love and never looked back.


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Keep on “Rolo”-ing

Sometimes, it’s the smallest people that help us bigger folks grow up.

roloMy little nephew, only 10 months old, has spent more time in the hospital than I’ve ever had to my entire life.  He was born with a rare vocal cord condition that has resulted in multiple invasive surgeries, long hospital stays and the saddest, pleading eyes that grab your heart and make you want to smuggle him home under your coat.

We went to see him in hospital this past weekend after another, and hopefully last, surgery.  The tall glass-plated building housed gigantic wooden animals wearing bright scarves and Beatrix Potter-esque murals.  The halls were quiet, even though people milled around the sunny waiting areas.  After signing in, we raided the small gift shop and shared our fluffy bounty – a round, blue bear for the little one and an equally round Pooh for his older brother.  The couple of times I stayed in hospital when I was little had always resulted in gifts – it was something that made being ill just a bit easier to handle.  Seeing his tiny hands clasp his blue bear, even for the brief second before he jilted it for the glitzier purple poodle, made me very glad that I had made the 3 ½ hour drive to see him.

His room was rather large for such a little guy, but it was clean, bright and cute – insofar as a hospital room can be.  We burst into the small space with all the noise and enthusiasm that our family could muster.  When we do noise, we do it well.

His big, round eyes brightened when he saw us and a huge grin followed as we crowded around his metal crib.  We cooed and waggled his arms as he kept his foot propped up in his baby way to hold the humidifier tube in place.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit dissatisfied and wallowing in my self-imposed stagnation.  My job was making me feel unfulfilled and frustrated, days were filled with chores and to-dos, and I seemed to have a complaint list a mile long.  Just a few wrongs would make me feel like my life was spinning out of control.

But as I tucked my nephew’s IV under his pillow, I was faced with my own selfishness imagesand was reminded of a quote from a book I was reading by Howard Behar, the past President of Starbucks, titled It’s Not About the Coffee.   Behar’s book about leadership and lessons learned had more to it than that simple description implies.  It’s filled with a lot of really good points about relationships, not only with your company, family and co-workers, but with yourself.  In it, he discusses the idea of not hiding who we are.  By keeping “different hats” for different situations, we aren’t true to ourselves and just wear out (amongst other more negative results).  He asks:

“If someone came into your home and listened to the walls talk, what would they say?”

rolo1And that, folks, brought a stain to my cheeks that even my hardest run could not rival.  While I wasn’t saying most of my frustrations out loud, they were seeping into my dreams and into my approach to everyday tasks.  I let my emotions feed on themselves and it wasn’t the green, leafy variety of food, either.  The only way my nephew could eat was through this tiny, clear IV tube.  Here I was, totally vocal, healthy, happily married, munching on decadent desserts (like the one below), but moaning about my “bad” life.  My little guy couldn’t even moan if he wanted to, and by the look in his eyes (we ranked him a 4 out of 10 on his “how am I feeling” chart), he really needed a good moan.

I could, at any moment, “feed” my life with those nutrients that I thought were missing – the art classes I was going to take at the new year?  I’m going to look into our options this week.  The frustrations at work?  I need to address them with my manager.  There were actual steps I could take to alleviate this sense of whirlpool, but I was letting myself drown.

For my brave little nephew, his path seems clear – to get out of that hospital room, to get home and, for the first time in his life, to howl up a storm.

Here’s to more howling in all our lives.  🙂

rolo cheesecake bars 005

And here’s a recipe for Rolo Cheesecake Bars from Bakers Royale that will make everyone sing your praises.  I made them for work this week and they are filled with mini-rolos, cream cheese, caramel and chocolate – what’s not to love?  The entire batch was gone before some even knew I had brought any dessert.  Oh, yes, and they’re a cinch to make.  It’s a wonderful addition to my rolo repertoire, and a new one for many of my co-workers after I fulfill all of the recipe requests that came pouring in.

 Rolo Cheesecake Bars

(Note:  The original recipe is by Naomi from Bakers Royale and I didn’t tweak it too much.  The next time I make it, I might tweak the sugar quantities – it’s delicious, but I feel like a drop in sugar wouldn’t harm it, especially in the crust.  I did up some of the quantities slightly to make a 9×13 pan’s worth rather than the original 8×8.  I also decreased the chocolate layer since I didn’t want quite as thick a layer as the original’s.  It was a good decision since the chocolate balanced well with the cheesecake layer rather than dominating it.  All of my tweaks are in red.)


Crust layer

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used 2 whole sleeves of Trader Joe’s Graham Crackers)
  • 10 tbsp melted, unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar

Cheesecake layer

  • 8 oz + 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese (or 1 ½ blocks), softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • A heaping 1/3 cup of caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Caramel Sauce instead of making my own)
  • One 8 oz bag of mini rolos

Chocolate layer

  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup

4-5 tbsp caramel sauce for drizzling


Line a 9×13 pan with foil so that it overhangs the sides and heat oven to 350.

Mix crumbs, melted butter and sugar until well mixed and press into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 for 7 min.  Remove and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, place cream cheese, egg, vanilla, caramel sauce and sugar.  Mix on medium until smooth.  Stir in rolos and spread the mixture evenly on top of the crust.  (I tried to line up the rolos on top of the crust, but ended up mixing them in anyways. Save yourself the effort of even spacing and just mix the rolos into the cream cheese before you pour.)

Bake at 350 for 35 -40 minutes. Begin checking for doneness using a toothpick at the 30 min mark, depending on your oven.  Mine took a bit longer than 35 minutes before my toothpick came out clean.

Remove, allow to cool, and make your chocolate topping.

Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup into a pan and heat on low until melted stir frequently (you can also do this in the microwave, but be sure to use small time intervals so as to not scorch the chocolate). Spread evenly over bars and allow to cool completely.  You can fridge the bars now or cut them.

Cut bars using a clean, warm knife (clean the blade between each cut).  Heat caramel sauce in microwave until warm (about 20 sec depending on your microwave).  Using a spoon, drizzle sauce over cut bars.  Place back into fridge until ready to serve.

They’re good cold, but we preferred them when they were allowed to sit at room temperature for a few minutes.  The chocolate softens and the caramel becomes less solid.

rolo cheesecake bars 011